Jean M. Auel Criticism - Essay

Grover Sales (review date 12 September 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Primordial Passions of the Pleistocene Times: The Flesh Is Willing, But the Diction Is Weak," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 12, 1982, p. 3.

[In the following review, Sales finds the plot weak and the dialogue anachronistic in The Valley of Horses.]

The Valley of Horses, Jean M. Auel's sequel to her blockbuster novel The Clan of the Cave Bear, set in ice age Ukraine, 30,000 BC, is a well-researched children's story fleshed out with steamy primordial sex, women's lib, soap opera plots and "Me, Tarzan, you, Jane," dialogue.

One must admire the painstaking anthropological research Auel has poured into her proposed...

(The entire section is 404 words.)

Gene Lyons (review date 18 November 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sweet Savage Love," in Newsweek, November 18, 1985, pp. 100-101.

[Below, Lyons provides a favorable review and plot summaries of Auel's first three novels.]

Long ago and far away. Once upon a time. For centuries, storytellers enchanted audiences with the promise of exotic imaginary worlds in which gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, demigods and mythical beasties shared robust adventures. But such is the tyranny of facts in our own degraded time that all but supermarket tabloid customers need excuses better than mere curiosity and wonder for reading about adventure and romance. At 20 bucks a throw, novels must improve as well as divert us. Hence the immense...

(The entire section is 1348 words.)

Jean Auel with Roy Bongartz (interview date 29 November 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Jean Auel," in Publisher's Weekly, Vol. 228, November 29, 1985, pp. 50-51.

[In the following interview, Bongartz provides biographical information about Auel and describes the development of her "Earth's Children" series.]

Jean Auel, the nonstop neophyte author of the fast-selling Earth's Children fictional saga—The Valley of Horses, The Clan of the Cave Bear and, just out from Crown, The Mammoth Hunters (Fiction Forecasts, Nov. 1), with three more novels to follow—began her writing career after reaching 40, having engaged in several others, including housewifery and the raising of five children, in Portland, Ore. Auel, a plump, cheerful...

(The entire section is 2449 words.)

Andrea Chambers and Dirk Matheson (review date 16 December 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Mammoth First Printing Makes Jean Auel's New Epic an Instant Best Seller," in People, Vol. 24, No. 25, December 16, 1985, pp. 113-15.

[In the following review, Chambers and Matheson provide biographical information on Auel and a favorable assessment of The Mammoth Hunters.]

High on a cliff above the rocky Oregon coast sits a dramatic modern house, built, its owner might say, by Neanderthals. This is the abode that Portland author Jean Auel, 49, constructed with some of the proceeds from her 1980 best-seller, The Clan of the Cave Bear and its 1982 sequel, The Valley of Horses. Both are doorstop-size sagas about the slings, flings and fortunes of...

(The entire section is 960 words.)

Lindsay Van Gelder (review date March 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Speculative Fiction," in Ms., Vol. XIV, No. 9, March, 1986, pp. 64, 70.

[While praising Auel's creation of a strong female protagonist in the review below, Van Gelder faults the author for creating social interactions which are too similar to "modern" society.]

I began hearing about them several years ago, always from feminist friends who said things like "You absolutely have to read these books." Jean M. Auel's "Earth's Children" novels—The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Valley of Horses, and The Mammoth Hunters—have since gone from feminist word-of-mouth classics to a major mainstream phenomenon. Hunters hit the number-one spot on...

(The entire section is 1897 words.)

Diane S. Wood (essay date Spring 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Female Heroism in the Ice Age: Jean Auel's Earth Children," in Extrapolation, Vol. 27, No. 1, Spring 1986, pp. 33-38.

[In the essay below, Wood examines the psychological development of Auel's protagonist in the author's first two novels. She also suggests that, in spite of the strong romantic overtones of the plots, the story is a classic adventure.]

By its very nature, speculative fiction has great potential to explore variations in patterns of human interaction. Jean M. Auel, in The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980) and its sequel The Valley of Horses, demonstrates how such fiction can delve into basic human problems. Set in the Ice Age near the...

(The entire section is 2795 words.)

Nicholas O'Connell (interview date 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An interview with Jean Auel, in At the Field's End, Maronda Publishers, 1987, pp. 208-19.

[In the following interview, Auel discusses the research and development behind her series.]

Jean M. Auel is the author of some of the most popular books in the world today. Her titles The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), The Valley of Horses (1982) and The Mammoth Hunters (1985) have set publishing records and won acclaim from critics for their accurate and imaginative portrayals of the lives of prehistoric peoples. Despite her phenomenal success, Auel did not begin writing with the intention of becoming a best-selling author. She first sat down at...

(The entire section is 4434 words.)

Judy Bass (review date 14 October 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Interfacing in the Ice Age," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 14, 1990, pp. 2, 15.

[In the review below, Bass compares The Plains of Passage to another recent novel set in the Ice Age. Though the novels differ in theme and execution, Bass has praise for both.]

"Judge the goodness of a book by the energy of the punches it has given you," wrote Gustave Flaubert, author of "Madame Bovary." According to him, "the greatest characteristic of genius is, above all, force."

Two new novels about prehistoric hunter-gatherers—The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' The Animal Wife—both...

(The entire section is 1271 words.)

Margot Hornblower (review date 22 October 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Queen of the Ice Age Romance," in Time, Vol. 136, No. 17, October 22, 1990, p. 88.

[In the following review, Hornblower comments favorably on the "Earth's Children" series, but finds some elements of the most recent novel, The Plains of Passage, to be implausible.]

In the musty chill of the Dordogne, 30 ft. below ground, giant bulls, painted in red and black, gallop across undulating walls. Nearby, a cavalcade of horses, ibex, tiny deer and cave lions dances along the curves of rough limestone. Are these soaring images sacred or profane? A large bespectacled woman closes her eyes and sighs in wonder. She imagines a time, perhaps 20,000 years ago, when...

(The entire section is 887 words.)

Clyde Wilcox (essay date Winter 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Not-so-Failed Feminism of Jean Auel," in Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 28, No. 3, Winter, 1994, pp. 63-70.

[In the following essay, Wilcox argues that Auel's works can be considered feminist.]

The Clan of the Cave Bear and the three other novels in Jean Auel's Earth's Children series are surprising bestsellers. They blend carefully researched and detailed accounts of the making of flint tools, the construction of lodges from mammoth bones, and the flora and fauna of Europe during the last Ice Age with an almost soap-opera account of the life of a blond, blue-eyed woman named Ayla. Orphaned by an earthquake at an early age, Ayla was raised by a...

(The entire section is 3217 words.)